Business Entertainment Microsoft Technology

The game is on!

There was a time when a computer game was a simple enough affair. One of simple rules, a simple ‘platformer’ or ‘scroller’ with simple ‘baddies’ with even simpler if no-less annoyingly difficult to overcome abilities. There was this endlessly repetitive, formulaic simplicity that rather than detract from the experience, actually added to it. Then things changed.

Enter the First Person Shooter. From here on in, games would never really be the same again.

In this time, there has been somewhat of a renaissance of ‘old school’ games, many of which have had new life breathed into them and are now doing the rounds on the small screen of a mobile phone somewhere near you.

So while we’ve managed to move on to much bigger, more immersive and better things, we still have cause to doff our cap in reverence to the old guard of quality time-wasters from our collective youth.

Games are becoming so much bigger, sophisticated and complex that in some cases, there’s no chance of quick skirmish over your dinner hour with your mates.

You need to not only keep your wits about you, but pen & paper at the ready.

For me, by far the best game I’ve ever played was the original Deus Ex. While certain things could have been improved — such as the rendering engine itself, which was antique the moment the game launched, given that the Unreal Engine had already been overhauled for Unreal Tournament — there was this expansive, massively detailed, lavishly produced game that begged exploration and never failed to reward your efforts.

When I eventually completed this game, it was at that point that I realized that computer games had come of age, and that there was no going back.

Once people play a game of such sumptuous detail in every regard, the expectations of the player need to be either matched or bettered at every step.

This challenge was met in no small part by Halo. Originally, Halo was being developed by Bungie for the Mac, but right about the same time, Microsoft was developing the Xbox and needed a debutant game to give it the start in life that it would need when facing off against the likes of the Sony PlayStation.

So for the likes of me, the Mac user of old, having Halo whipped from under our noses was very much like a smack in the face.

The original intention of Bungie was for Halo to be Mac-only, which would have caused a major stir. However, things didn’t quite work out that way.

Never the less, Halo did indeed find its way to the Mac, or be it by more circuitous means, and I’ve thus far thrown many hours at this game, both in single player and multiplayer modes.

When in the Halo world, we are treated to some of the most majestic, vast and expansive computer-generated vistas ever.

While the game play and the weapons aren’t particularly unique, the sheer detail of the plot and the ability to ride, fly and drive almost anything set this game apart from all other games at the time.

But where are we going with games?

Is there an overall direction that all games are following?

Well, maybe there is, and much of this started some years ago when various stars such as Tia Carrere were featured in games like The Daedalus Encounter.

To build upon and increase the realism, to draw upon the sense of cinematic size and to more fully immerse the player in the world they’re within, in time, we’re going to see games publishers working directly with the film producers and the film studios.

The game production will be interwoven with the production of the film.

The reasons being quite simple; save cost, save time and make the most money for the least amount of effort.

So all of those in-game character sequences will be added to the movie filming schedule, or maybe lifted directly from them.

Further into the future, I foresee a time when the distinction between movie and game is so blurred as to be invisible and seamless.

Imagine being in the film. Imagine being the protagonist running against the clock to save the whole of mankind.

Space Invaders this isn’t…

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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